Date: 7:45 p.m. Oct. 15, 2010
Venue: Morton Stadium
Galway started the game with a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Derek O'Brien playing just behind lone striker Karl Sheppard, while Sporting played a 4-4-2 combo, which has been something of a change from their usual 4-3-3 set-up. Going into the game, there was an outside chance that Galway could still finish ahead of UCD, thus avoiding a relegation play-off, and they really needed a good start to this tie if they were to have any chance of doing so.
Unfortunately, the opposite turned out to be the case, as it took Liam Buckley's side only three minutes to open their lead as a long clearance by Ger O'Brien was expertly controlled by Ronan Finn on the right-wing, before pulling back for the onrushing Alan Kirby, who coolly slotted the ball past the helpless Darragh Geraghty from a distance of ten yards.
This was not the beginning that Sean Connor would have been hoping for, and it got worse for the Tribesmen just eight minutes later when towering Fingal centre-half Colin Hawkins rose highest to head home from an in-swinging Conan Byrne corner on the right.
This left Galway with an absolute mountain to climb and, even at this early stage, it was looking like this game could turn into a rout if United didn't start gathering some possession in midfield. To be fair to Sean Connor’s side, they did manage to do this, and though it took them a long while to really threaten Brendan Clarke's goal, they were at least becoming more competitive in the midfield sector in the shape of Jason Molloy and Gary Curran.
They did have one half-chance after 28 minutes, when Stephen Walsh crossed after some excellent work on the left-hand side and, following some rather shaky defensive play by Sporting, the ball nearly fell to the feet of Sheppard, but the home team managed to clear the ball eventually.
As the half wore on, the game became somewhat flat, with neither side really creating too many opportunities, though Fingal front man Crowe very nearly increased their lead when he headed against the crossbar on the stroke on injury-time, but it came out rather than in, which meant Sporting had to be content with a 2-0 advantage going in at the break. A third goal would have surely killed off the tie, but at two goals down, there was still a glimmer hope for Galway heading into the second period.
Nonetheless, Sporting managed to raise their game again after the break, and may have gone further in front if it wasn't for the alertness of Geraghty between the sticks for Galway, who continues to deputise for the suspended Barry Ryan. First of all, he got to the ball in the box before Kirby was able to strike, and he also saved low from O'Neill on 51 minutes.
Indeed, these saves almost grew in their importance on 56 minutes when a cross by substitute Tom King, a 54th minute replacement instead of Molloy, was met by the head of the always lively Walsh, and he had the keeper beaten, but Kenny Browne was on hand to clear off the line, letting his side off the hook in the process.
This served as a very sharp indicator to Fingal that the game wasn't over just yet, and given that they have thrown away two-goal leads earlier on this season, a step up in performance levels was required once more from the Santry-based outfit.
For a spell, they managed to do this, but Galway were now playing with a lot more confidence, and they were beginning to find plenty of inroads through the Fingal defence. The Tribesmen were missing that bit of quality in the final-third though, and Sheppard was still rather isolated up front, although it should be pointed that he is the club's only recognised striker at the moment.
As the game moved into the final quarter, the game was put firmly beyond Galway's reach as Sporting left-back Lorcan Fitzgerald found the right corner of the Galway net after a cross deep on the left-wing. This goal was somewhat fortuitous it has to be said, but it was one that Sporting badly needed to kill off the tie.
The battling spirit that Connor had been looking for in his side was on evidence in the final 15 minutes however, and his charges got the goal that their efforts merited when Walsh finished brilliantly with a delicate strike from 25 yards, which flew into the back of the Fingal net, in spite of the best efforts of Clarke.
This proved to be the last action of the game, as Sporting move forward into two crucial games against Dundalk and UCD, while Galway will play out their final two league games, before facing Bray Wanderers in a relegation play-off encounter.
Sporting Fingal: Clarke; O'Brien, Hawkins, Browne, Fitzgerald (Cahill '84); Byrne, Kirby, Finn, McFaul; Crowe, O'Neill.
Subs not used: Gannon, Cahill, Dawson, Quigley, Zayed.
Galway United: Geraghty; Preston-Kelly, Meynell, Sinnott, McKenzie; Connelly, Curran, Molloy (King '54), Walsh; O'Brien; K Sheppard.
Subs not used: Reilly, D Sheppard, Kelly, Winn.
Referee: D. Hancock (Dublin).
Extra Time Man Of The Match: Ger O'Brien (Sporting Fingal).